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From human trafficking to smuggling small arms to looting antiquities, illicit trade poses significant threats to international order. So why is it difficult to establish international cooperation against illicit trade? Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder offers a novel, thought-provoking answer to this crucial question. Conventional wisdom holds that powerful criminal groups obstruct efforts to suppress illicit trade. In contrast, Asif Efrat explains how legitimate actors, such as arms manufacturers or museums that acquire and display looted antiquities, often act to hinder policing efforts. However, such efforts to evade regulation often fuel intense political conflicts between governments that demand action against illicit trade and others that are reluctant to cooperate.
The book offers a framework for understanding the domestic origins of this conflict-and how the distribution of power shapes the conflict's outcome. Through this framework, Efrat explains why the interests of governments vary across countries, trades, and time. In a fascinating empirical analysis, he solves a variety of puzzles: Why is the international regulation of small arms much weaker than international drug control? What led the United States and Britain to oppose the efforts against plunder of antiquities and why did they ultimately join these efforts? How did American pressure motivate Israel to tackle sex trafficking? Efrat's findings will change the way we think about illicit trade, offering valuable insights for scholars, activists, and policymakers.